Saturday, May 16, 2009

Employee health cost becomes a King County Exec issue

What kind of person will rule King County - one of the largest county governments in the country? A person who will put the unions first? Or the taxpayers? Why don't county employees pay anything for their health care? Politics Northwest at Seattle Times
As the council looks at a 2010 budget shortfall of up to $50 million, more people are asking why county employees don't pay a monthly premium for health-care coverage as most other Washington workers do. It's a particularly tricky issue for county exec candidates Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips, Democrats who have had cordial ties with organized labor but who are facing candidates who say the county should cut labor costs before asking taxpayers to pony up more money. They face potentially strong opponents in three "outsiders" -- state legislators Ross Hunter and Fred Jarrett and former TV news anchor Susan Hutchison. Constantine is trying to get his arms around the problem by proposing that non-union-represented employees pay 2 percent of any earnings above about $60,000 for health coverage. The county can't impose cost-sharing on union members without first bargaining the issue.
A commenter there says that 800 people making over $100,000 and 2000 making more than $80,000 receive full medical benefits without paying. I don't know the source for this number. But why don't people in safe jobs at high salaries pay part? Now Ron Sims, true to form, "did something" about rising costs. He appointed a commission and directed them to stay away from making employees pay. The commission was hard hitting: they commended county efforts. And he formed an alliance. And the result is... higher costs and employees don't take any more responsibility for their own care. Did anyone see anything beyond bold words come out of the 2003 commission or Puget Sound Health Alliance? I will give the county and its employees credit for taking days off without pay this year. But how about next year? And we are electing a leader for 4 or more years.

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